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Author: Consumer Choice Center

UK PFAS Ban Could Undermine Semiconductor Manufacturing Efforts

London, UK: A new report published by the Consumer Choice Center highlights how calls for heavy handed chemical policy could exacerbate the state of the UK’s semiconductor production.

Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center explained: “A few weeks ago, the UK announced an inquiry into the state of UK chips. The global microchip shortage has hampered UK car production in 2021, with limited signs of recovery. As the security concerns over UK semiconductor firms, sold to China, continue to grow, boosting domestic production should be a priority. However, regaining a competitive edge in the semiconductor industry is impossible without a flexible evidence-based stance on PFAS.

PFAS are the next target of green groups. As the pressure to ban PFAS in the UK builds up, the evidence should prevail.

“PFAS, a grouping of 4000+ man-made chemicals, are vital for the production of semiconductors, and if the UK follows these green groups and bans their use, increasing domestic chip manufacturing will be incredibly difficult. If the UK is serious about increasing domestic chip production, they have to also work to secure the key inputs involved in the production process, and PFAS are one of those key inputs.” said David Clement, an author of the report.

“In fact, we know that this is what will happen if the UK opts for a phase out. This is exactly what happened when Belgium paused production at a PFAS chemical plant in response to the tightening of environmental regulations. Reporting done by Business Korea highlighted that semiconductor producers have only 30 to 90 days of coolant inventory left before they will encounter serious production problems.” said Clement.

“With the global chip shortage, the UK has a unique chance to become a semiconductor powerhouse if it doesn’t ban PFAS. Among other things, this will ensure the UK can effectively counter China’s increased chip manufacturing. Banning PFAS would achieve nothing but feed the green groups with yet another socially disruptive victory and shift the production of chips elsewhere. The UK government shouldn’t succumb to calls to ban all PFAS,” concluded Chaplia.

Malaysia Towards A Vape Regulated Nation

Big Industry players are acknowledging that vaping is not risk-free, but there is growing scientific evidence that it is certainly less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Risk-proportionate regulations and taxation for vaping are being called to encourage smokers to switch to a low-risk alternative. With the Malaysian Government introducing a taxation on nicotine vapes, many in the vaping industry are exhaling a sigh of relief as the grey line lingering over nicotine taxation has loomed for the longest time. 

In relation to that, the public are commending the Malaysian government for moving in the right direction of regulating it instead of an outright ban, as vaping products play a crucial role in reducing the enormous health burden caused by cigarette smoking.

Malaysia towards regulating vape products 

The aftermath of banning vaping will only open doors for the prevalence of the black market, which poses the danger of owning and inhaling substandard products. With nicotine vapes being legal for sale and consumption, the lack of regulation needs to be addressed to prevent consumers from falling prey to black market products, perceiving netizens who are forthrightly switching to vaping as a choice. 

It is in the best interest of the nation to quickly roll out proper regulations to benefit the Malaysian economy as it could lose an estimated RM1 billion tax revenue from vape products alone, being too substantial to remain unregulated. 

Read the full article here

Harm reduction strategy stressed to achieve Tobacco-free nation by 2040

Speakers in a discussion have urged policymakers to incorporate Tobacco harm reduction strategy in their tobacco control plans and establish safer alternatives such as vaping products as smoking cessation medium like progressive nations around the world.

Voice of Vapers Bangladesh organised the discussion titled “The Need for a Tobacco Harm Reduction Strategy: Achieving the Government’s Health Agenda & Revenue Ambitions” at a Dhaka hotel on Saturday to mark the World Vape Day 2022.

Health Diplomats’ president Dr Delon Human said that Bangladesh was widely recognized as a resilient nation, known for her prowess to prove her critics wrong.

Read the full article here

Speakers stress need for tobacco harm reduction strategy 

They call for sensible regulations for vaping products to achieve government’s health agenda and revenue ambitions

Speakers at an event urged policymakers to incorporate Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategy in their tobacco control plans and establish safer alternatives such as vaping products as smoking cessation medium like progressive nations around the world. 

To commemorate World Vape Day 2022, Voice of Vapers Bangladesh organised a panel discussion titled “The Need for a Tobacco Harm Reduction Strategy: Achieving the Government’s Health Agenda & Revenue Ambitions” held at a Dhaka hotel on 28 May, reads a press release.

Dr Delon Human, president of Health Diplomats and an expert on harm reduction said, “Bangladesh is widely recognised as a resilient nation, known for her prowess to prove her critics wrong. Historically, the indomitable spirit of Bangladeshis has made them question the status quo and establish the rights of its people. The stupendous development across all sectors is a true testament of that.” 

Read the full article here

自由開講》理性態度看待緩減菸害

《菸害防制法》修法一直受大眾的矚目。目前台灣有近三百多萬吸菸者,但非吸菸者卻有近二千萬。對於非吸菸者而言,縱然他們可能真心希望台灣是民主和開放社會的範例;假如決議就只有簡單的少數服從多數,吸菸者幾乎可以說是沒有勝算,結果不是真正的民主,而是多數人暴政。

民主是和衷共濟,透過協商找出最接近兩全其美的方案。本次修法,屢受關注及討論原因之一,是衛生福利部提出的版本中,包括全面禁止電子煙在內之各式類菸品。

「為甚麼不乾脆戒菸?」對那些非吸菸者,可能會覺得戒菸事在人為,只要有決心的話,誰都可以立地成佛。然而事實證明,過去幾年容許吸菸者有替代品可供選擇的國家,吸菸率的降幅尤其明顯。以英國為例,自從 2013 年英國公共衛生署積極建議吸菸者改用電子煙,英國整體吸菸率下降了 25%。相比之下,世界上電子煙法規最嚴格的澳大利亞,同期的吸菸率僅下降了 8%。

Read the full article here

The PFAS Packaging Predicament: McDonald’s Isn’t Loving It

The packaging of a number of popular food items has attracted the attention of Consumer Reports, given the presence of per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), because of which fast-food giant McDonald’s is currently facing class-action lawsuits. Claimants are citing health risk concerns, yet McDonald’s is currently abiding by industry standards. So let’s review what PFAS are, some contradictions for this case, and the overall implications of PFAS for business practices.

What are PFAS and what are the concerns?

PFAS is a chemical family of over 9,000 man-made substances, ranging from gas to liquids, which have a variety of applications, from being a moisture barrier for tech gadgets to serving as a means for improving the durability of medical implants

PFAS are present in numerous household items, and are often referred to as ‘Forever Chemicals’ given the difficulty in breaking down their concocted components. It is precisely this lasting power that makes PFAS appealing for food containers. Packaging with PFAS can handle heat, steam, saturation, and grease – making it quite the innovation. 

The superior functionality of PFAS, however, doesn’t mean they should be used in excess. Just because someone has a fast car doesn’t mean he should recklessly speed down the highway. 

To be sure, there are significant health risks when overexposure to PFAS occur and spillovers sometimes happen. Fortunately though, a 2018 Toxicological Profile for Perfluoroalkyls by the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry says that “industrial releases have been declining since companies began phasing out the production and use of several perfluoroalkyls in the early 2000s.” In addition to that, a CDC report shows that since 2000, “mean blood levels of PFOS have declined approximately 84 percent and mean blood levels of PFOA have declined about 70 percent,” and recent reports are showing that bodies of water contain only trace amounts of PFAS, and they have been declining.

When higher levels of PFAS are found to be present in ground materials and waterways, it is often connected to communities with nearby military bases and fire training sites. PFAS are a major component for firefighting foam, and although this foam does pose serious health hazards, there is currently no alternative that is as effective

Given this understanding, it seems obvious that the focus should be on how to prevent the need for using firefighting foam rather than the banning of PFAS altogether. Just like that fast car, it is handy to have in an emergency (and blanket bans rarely result in positive outcomes).

What’s next and what was already in the works?

It should be noted that if McDonald’s could have more environmentally friendly packaging, it likely would. According to its 2020-2021 Purpose and Impact Progress Reportlast year, it made great strides in ensuring that a majority of its food packaging (99.6 percent) was derived from recycled or sustainable fiber. The report states “Improving the sustainability of our packaging and moving toward a circular economy are top priorities for our business.” 

But change takes time, and it is not clear as to what the lawsuit claimants would have McDonald’s do in the meantime – revert to Styrofoam? And to be frank, McDonald’s founding core competencies were in serving customers burgers and fries, not sustainable sourcing or package manufacturing.

PFAS will likely remain a core component of containerization strategies for food retailers until something better comes along that is either comparable or superior. And actually, McDonald’s may help lead the charge with funding to find alternative options given its previous pledge to continuously improve in this realm. 

In a statement given to Today, McDonald’s asserted that it “stands behind its commitment to the safety of its food and food packaging” and that the process of taking steps to remove PFAS use in packaging began in 2008 with a target to completely eliminate it by 2025.

So to get slammed with a lawsuit for its packaging seems like a slap in the face, particularly since many restaurant chains are aspiring to recoup lost profits as pandemic policies are lifted. And for restaurants aspiring for a rebound, calls for modifying packaging purchases may be too much to bear during a time of supply chain constraints.

What are the intentions and contradictions?

For those truly scared of PFAS presence at McDonald’s, it is important to remember that no one is forcing anyone to eat there (and those concerned should probably refrain from fast food altogether, given that a majority of restaurants from Panera to Popeyes have PFAS levels found in their packaging).

The hard truth is that being good for the environment isn’t always conducive to current needs. Take for example the extreme use of single-use plastics throughout the pandemic, let alone the pollution generated from disposable masks

It is also important to remember that when we pressure firms to do what is thought to be better, it can sometimes turn out to be worse – take how the banning of plastic straws can backfire, or how cotton tote bags can be a bigger problem than their plastic counterparts, or how even tree-planting campaigns can become environmentally costly.

As with all in life, there are tradeoffs – which is why PFAS use should be assessedaccording to the risk-related exposure for each chemical as well as the purpose of its use. Effort should also be placed on how best to test and treat PFAS presence when it does reach hazardous levels and any discovery of the misuse of these chemicals should be punished. 

And this brings us to the irony of the McDonald’s packaging problem. It is doing nothing wrong since the FDA has approved the use of PFAS in food packaging. 

As noted by the FDA, “the FDA does not have any indication that these substances are a human health concern, in other words a food safety risk in human food, at the levels found in this limited sampling.”

As such, the present lawsuits are not only a curious occurrence, but impose unwarranted pressure on any retailer tied to PFAS presence. 

And for those jumping on the bandwagon as a contributor to the fast-food court case claims, consideration should be given to the collateral damage that may occur. Over 90 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are franchises, meaning most McDonald’s stores are owned and operated by small business owners within your community. 

Smaller shops unaffiliated with McDonald’s may also be affected and fearfully pivot their packaging purchases despite the fact that what is being used is safe and approved, which is an important point: McDonald’s must consider more than the safety of the environment; it also must ensure the safety (as well as satisfaction) of its customers. For example, although PLA (polylactic acid)-coated paper could be an alternative packaging choice for McDonald’s, this material is not well-suited for heat transfer, and so someone ordering a hot beverage may feel the burn (and McDonald’s is no stranger to coffee-related court cases). 

What is the role for the consumer?

Before complaining in court or accusing wrongdoing, customers should cool it with the sue-happy culture and take accountability for the role they play, since history has shown that regardless of whether an organization wishes to do good for the planet, it is all for naught if consumers are not on board. 

And perhaps no firm knows this better than Frito Lay. For four years, it invested in the creation of a fully compostable bag for its SunChip snacks, only to have it be phased out in a matter of 18 months due to consumer complaints. The reason for shunning the SunChip sustainability effort was simply because consumers didn’t like the noise it made. 

Just imagine the number of complaints that McDonald’s would receive from boisterous buyers if its packaging failed to keep grease drippings at bay, or the heat of coffee contained. 

Considerations and Implications

New inventions are making the world better and safer every day, and given that PFAS impact numerous industries, there is a strong incentive for alternative innovations to come about over time to appease the various stakeholders present – thereby leading to safer options. 

Take for instance, vaping, which is 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes. Vaping has proved to be a worthwhile alternative for those seeking to quit but have found little success in kicking their smoking habit. Although it’d be best not to ingest any nicotine from the start, vaping is certainly a step in the right direction for those eager to transition away from tobacco consumption. 

And, while on the subject of consumption, most people would probably be better off not eating Big Macs on a regular basis. Even McDonald’s acknowledges this and has rolled out the McPlant – a vegan friendly alternative. And for now, McPlant sales are proving strongand PFAS packaging concerns don’t seem to be a deterrent. 

At the end of the day, experimentation is necessary for firms to advance their offerings, which can lead to an improved society. A marketplace that binds entrepreneurs with rules and rulings will hardly encourage exploration for innovations – and firms will grow to fear their customer base rather than have a desire to cater to them. Consumers should be wary of using the power of the courts rather than the power of their purse to influence business practices.

Originally published here

April 2022

The CCC team is back to deliver the latest updates! We have been working hard defending consumer choice around the world and we are excited to share our accomplishments with you!

Freedom to Choose – Our new podcast in Brazil!

Earlier this year, Fabio, our Head of Communications, launched “Liberdade para Escolher” (Freedom to Choose) – a brand new podcast in Portuguese. Freedom to Choose is the first program in Portuguese dedicated to consumer freedom. From market news, tech, and innovation, to laws and regulations. Each week, Fabio brings you, in a light and enjoyable way, the hottest topics that affect consumers, so you are always well informed.

What are you waiting for? Give it a listen and share it with your Portuguese-speaking friends!
LISTEN HERE

Non-Alcoholic beer will be exempt from excise tax!

It’s always a pleasure to see a positive change in policies we have advocated for. Our North American Affairs Manager, David, wrote an amazing piece about the problem of subjecting non-alcoholized beer to federal excise taxes and explained the arguments against the tax at the meeting with the Department of Finance. Canada’s  Budget 2022 removes alcohol excise taxes on beer containing no more than 0.5% alcohol by volume. This is another great victory for Canadian consumers!This is a step in the right direction and hopefully the start of a national discussion on modernizing the alcohol excise duty structure. 
READ MORE

A new policy paper analyzing the ongoing housing crisis in Canada is out!

Housing affordability is the most pressing issue for young Canadians. Our favorite duo of David and Yael partnered up once again to deliver a great policy paper that analyses current government efforts to fix the problem, in vain. Paper argues that government efforts are not properly addressing the root of the problem- chronic undersupply and provides policy suggestions to better tackle the issue.
READ HERE

It’s time to legalize vaping in Brazil! We have until May 11th!

 In early April, the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) opened a public consultation to collect technical and scientific information on electronic smoking devices (DEFs), popularly known as “vaping”. ANVISA’s objective is to collect information to support its future decisions regarding the import, sale, and advertising of these devices in Brazil. Since 2009, vaping has been banned by ANVISA, but it’s time to change this outdated law!
 To contribute to the consultation is easy!Download the file we’ve prepared hereGo to ANVISA’s websiteFill out the form and upload the file into section 17.Submit!
CONTRIBUTE HERE

US was right to warn the EU about green agriculture

It took a war in Ukraine for the EU to realize how damaging its green ambitions could be. The war in Ukraine threatens food security not only in the poorest countries in Africa but on the wealthy European continent too. Maria put together this amazing piece where she argues this whole drama could have been avoided had the EU been more realistic and listened to the US’s concerns about the unrealistic Farm to Fork strategy embedded in the European Green Deal.
READ HERE

Don’t be fooled by those who want to save you from tech monopolies

What could go wrong if we invite regulators to take more control of how large tech companies operate? Everything!Yael argues that if antitrust actions go too far they won’t deliver perfect competition and vast choice, as intended. It would simply deny internet consumers of innovative options and stall the entrepreneurial forces that have allowed them to grow and provide value.
READ HERE
That’s a wrap for this month! Make sure to follow us on our social media channels to get all the updates we couldn’t fit in here! See you next month

Former Amb. Scott Brown chairs new group to oppose congressional ‘overreach’ into tech industry

15 groups are teaming up to push back against what they consider ‘overzealous antitrust enforcement and activist overreach’ of tech sector

Brown will chair a newly formed coalition of 15 groups, including business, consumer, and taxpayer advocates, that are teaming up to highlight what they consider misguided congressional attempts to “overregulate and harm” America’s tech sector.

The group, titled “The Competitiveness Coalition,” will serve as a counterweight to what it charges are “Washington politicians’ attacks on our innovators.” News of the group’s launch was shared first with FOX Business on Wednesday.

Read the full article here

Canada is repealing the excise tax on non-alcoholic beer

Non-alcoholic beer has been subject to federal excise taxes despite not containing virtually any alcohol at all. 

Our North American Affairs Manager, David Clement pointed out several problems with this tax and was invited to meet with the Ministry of Finance to explain the arguments against the tax. For example, non-alcoholic wine and spirits are exempt from the tax, which created a huge disparity for non-alcoholic beer. Removing tax would reduce costs for health-conscious consumers, who are looking for a healthier alternative to their favorite drink. This would also be consistent with the principles of harm reduction, a policy approach the current government has taken upon other issues. 

Fortunately, Budget 2022 removes alcohol excise taxes on beer containing no more than 0.5% alcohol by volume. This is another great victory for Canadian consumers!

This is a step in the right direction and hopefully the start of a national discussion on modernizing the alcohol excise duty structure.

For more information, listen to this Consumer Choice Radio episode

Por que o ESG é como Inventando Anna da Netflix

A série da Netflix Inventando Anna cativou o público, dada a história desconcertante de uma jovem posando como uma herdeira alemã com grandes aspirações de abrir um clube de artes em seu nome. A série de sucesso abrange o golpe que foi Anna Sorokin, também conhecida como Anna Delvey, que conseguiu o status de socialite e ganhou notoriedade depois que um artigo revelador de 2018 atraiu a atenção da famosa produtora Shonda Rimes.

Conforme retratado na série, Anna procurou investidores para seu empreendimento criativo, posicionando-se como um ativo sólido, embora indescritível. E embora a evidência de sua riqueza fosse incerta, seus apoiadores optaram por ignorar as óbvias bandeiras vermelhas, dada sua disposição convincente, e o fato de que ninguém ainda havia denunciado seu blefe (muito parecido com uma versão moderna das Novas Roupas do Rei).

Com isso em mente, é interessante notar como a história de Anna é paralela ao ESG, que também foi preparado para atrair gestores de ativos afluentes para coisas que vão além do dinheiro sólido e os colocando em um reino de incerteza e obscuridade.

E, como aconteceu com Anna, só o tempo dirá se as alegações feitas fornecerão retornos substanciais. Então, enquanto isso, vamos explorar as áreas em comum e os sinais de alerta que estão sendo deixados de lado.

Read the full article here

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